Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Senior Theses and Animated Shorts

In freshman and sophomore year I began looking at art schools. At the time I wasn't sure if I should major in traditional 2-D or 3-D animation. Based on the circumstances, I'm pretty sure I'm going to learn 3-D and practice 2-D on my own time.

Anyway I watched the senior thesis films on the DVDs that the schools hand out (they're usually free, nowadays they're up on youtube and on the school websites). I'm warning you now: never watch college theses with an innocent younger sibling, because you don't know what they're going to show... I have to say a lot of scenes were unprecedented and left me traumatized.

The schools keep emphasizing how it is up to the individual to create the ultimate thesis, but based on what I've seen, the school really makes a big difference as well. The best ones I've seen are from Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota Florida My personal favorites are "the Emporer of Ice Cream" by Ben Beech (image below)
"Duplecggated" by Robert Huth (the music in that one is by Bobby McFerrin, its soo soothing!), and "Sugar Rush" by Guillermo Careaga (image not shown).

and of course "the Clock Tower" by Cara Antonelli. Here's a final frame of the Clock Tower
I tried e-mailing these guys (as seniors they all make a website), and I actually got a reply from Cara Antonelli, who now works in Dreamworks as a surfacing artist!!! She told me why she wanted to go to Ringling and gave me feedback on my drawings. For security reasons I'm not going to paste the whole email, so here's just a snippet, " I'm really glad you like my animation! " lol

Senior thesis films are short films made by the animation students in their senior year. Their thesis film and demo reel (a montage of all the skills they've honed, which includes the thesis) are the keys to getting them a job. A BEASTLY 2-D traditional thesis is called the Chestnut Tree by Hyun Min Lee, who made this at Calarts (Disney's brainchild) and now works at Disney's 2-D department (perhaps she was working on Princess and the Frog?! :D)A really popular thesis film on youtube is Kiwi which was made by a School of Visual Arts graduate student Dony Permedi.

SPEAKING of School of Visual Arts, that is also one of my choices for art school. Its computer art department is by far the most prolific in New York City. But I'm not sure if I want to live in NYC.. and there are several reasons that I'm a bit hesistant about going there.

Despite that, its Computer Art Department is awesome! The students were so nice to me and my Mom, and the alumni at their Open House were really inspiring.

There was Chris Mauch, who helped make the movie poster for the Fountain and who was also one of the story board artists for Ice Age 2: the Meltdown. Here's a movie poster! I think he did the planet...

Then there was Neo Afan, a motion graphics artist, you can see his demo reel at his site

There was Hyun Jeen Lee, a motion graphics artist who helped make a Michelin Man commercial. Her thesis, is here

Last but not least there was Josh Harvey, who was technical director for this awesome Coca Cola Commercial ! (below is picture, lower left is video)Go visit his website at

All the SVA students I met in person were BFA students, so all undergraduates. Usually a person who goes to graduate for computer art was an undergraduate at a university.

After watching student work, I began to wonder what professional short films were like. So I armed myself with the best sites ever! Youtube and Wikipedia. Here's the list of all the Academy Award winning Animated Shorts
From there I started searching one at a time. There are so many amazing little jewels out there... Seriously. Well, some of the films were kind of disturbing (there will always be one), and I didn't really get them, but there's probably someone else out there who appreciates it more than I do.
A few of my favorite animated shorts are : Father and Daughter, made in 2000 by Michael Dudok De Wit. It nearly brought me to tears! Then again, I can get emotional with these sort of things

I also love Alexander Petrov's the Old Man and the Sea on Hemingway's work, and My Love is based on the book by Ivan Shmelyov.
Alexander Petrov is a hardcore Russian animator who does EVERYTHING with pastel oil painting on glass panels... glass. I have never seen anything like his work... they're literally oil paintings coming to life...indeed his works are treasures!

Though this poster is in Japanese, this is a RUSSIAN animated film!!! Aaaw, doesn't it look cute? The film says otherwise.
Hedge Hog in the Fog 1975

Alexander Petrov was a student of Yuri Norstein, one of the pioneers in Russian animation when he made Hedgehog in the Fog which has a dark undertone but is really surreal and beautiful in its own way.

Russian animation is truly a world of its own, completely free from the technological influences of far everything I've seen is done by hand crafts. I should make a separate entry on animations done in different countries...soon it will be time to go global!

Anyway another Academy award winning animated short I like is Harvie Krumpet, an Australian claymation by a man named Adam Elliot. It's about a Polish man who immigrates to Australia and goes through a lot of strange and often unfortunate things in his life, yet somehow he remains optimistic til' the end. I didn't really like the film at first, but I became more attracted to it as I watched it again and again. I don't know what's with the dark undertones in award winning shorts, I think that's the reason why they win... because you can't make any old dark undertoned film under a corporation like Disney.
Adam Elliots' coming out with a new short called Mary and Max, about a middle-aged Jewish man with Asperger Syndrome in America who befriends an eight year old chubby Australian misfit named Mary through pen pal letters. Sounds odd, but because of Harvie Krumpet, I wouldn't judge too quickly.

Shane Acker is going to direct a full length 3-D animated feature called "9", which is based on his academy award winning short of the same name. He's co-directing with Tim Burton's producing it, and there are a lot of Burton fans out there... waiting to pounce.

Its a new, apocalyptic take on for the 3-D medium, and again with the dark undertones! What's with the dark undertones?! I think its about a man-made doll named 9 who is helped by his doll friends to save the human race...Anyway one thing that bothers me about this film is that all the characters look almost identical, I'm interested to see how they're going to tell them apart based on their characters and not by the number on their backs.

I think I started exploring professional Academy award animated shorts for 2007, the image above is for the nominated film Madame Tutli Putli, which is one of the strangest shorts I've ever seen. Its aesthetically pleasing, but the story has, guess what, a dark undertone that I was a bit creeped out by. What was interesting (and kind of creepy) was that they filmed Mme Tutli Putli without any eyes. Then they videotaped the eyes of a hired actress, looking at the marks on walls already prepared by the artists. Then they combined the live action eyes with the puppet, so that Mme Tutli Putli looks like this :

It was interesting how I watched the film after my AP Lang teacher made us read the essay Death of a Moth by Virginia Woolf, because in the film Mme Tutli Putli turns to a moth, symbolic of her death... this wasn't the only animated short with this moth symbolism. The film Bunny by Blue Sky studios (creators of Ice Age and Robots ) also had the same concept. What a coincidence!

Wow that was a long entry...I hope I didn't thoughts on animated shorts definitely has to be more organized! Thanks for reading!


  1. I'm going to watch one of these every day! Good for wholesomeness... The result of having a crazy artsy friend= crazy obsession with animation. :) I love the chestnut tree! Beautiful...

  2. :D Yay!!! I'm REALLY glad my entries have taken to your interest! Now I feel all good inside! :) Some of the animations may be a lot darker than you expect...just to warn you. There are many more animations that I didn't mention that you'd probably love! I'll post more later :)